The International Manganese Institute has a strong and enduring commitment to promoting good corporate citizenship amongst its members. Ensuring that member companies are informed of the best occupational safeguard measures to better protect their workers, that environmental protection measures are taken into account and that responsible attitudes are adopted vis-à-vis local communities, are paramount goals at the IMnI.
These challenges are handled by the Occupational Health, Environment and Safety Committee (OHES) – IMnI’s longest standing committee – now chaired by Catherine-Tissot Colle, Eramet’s Vice-President for Environment & Industrial Risks.
In 2004, the OHES Committee renewed its objectives and established a new set of goals.
The first of these aims to raise awareness of relevant OHES issues, among members’ management teams. This will be an ongoing, never-ending process, but a first significant step was made by featuring “Occupational Health, Safety & Environmental Issues” as a major theme at the 2004 Annual Conference in Tokyo. Eight presentations were given, including a report on Mn exposure litigation in the United States, the conclusions of the Criteria Document on Manganese, what a Life Cycle Assessment Program is and how It works, and how to produce ferroalloys cleanly, to name only a few.
The second goal is to keep members informed of new developments and provide them with a good understanding of pertinent scientific issues. The European Union’s REACH program, which will be going before the EU Parliament in 2005, is of particular concern to the industry and is being closely monitored by the IMnI. In a word, REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization & Restriction of Chemicals, will shift the “burden of proof” to industry, making it responsible for proving its substances are safe both to people and the environment. The policy focuses on both assessment and risk management. All chemicals, of which manganese is one, either produced in or imported to Europe, will have to comply with the very stringent and costly requirements laid out by REACH.
In order to properly track and react to the program, the IMnI voted to join Eurometaux, a Brussels-based, non-profit industry association that represents the European non-ferrous metals industry. Eurometaux is particularly effective at monitoring regulatory issues and providing help and guidance in conducting proper Risk Assessments.
In 2004, IMnI also made contact with the North American Metals Council, an unincorporated group formed to provide a collective voice from North American metals producers and users on science and policy-based metals issues that affect metals in a generic way. Valuable information sharing has resulted from this relationship, benefiting IMnI’s membership.
The third goal set forth by IMnI, through its OHES Committee, is to provide regulatory bodies with compiled industry data and information that is well-founded, upon request. A major milestone on the path to accomplishing this came in 2004 with the publication of the Scientific Criteria Document for Mn and Inorganic Mn Compounds. The document was independently co-authored by the Institute for Environment and Health (UK) and the Institute of Occupational Medicine (Scotland), with financial support from the IMnI. Initiated in 2001, the document took two and a half years to write. It provides a critical review of all published scientific literature on Mn, pinpoints research gaps and, based on the available quality research proposes an occupational exposure limit.
While the Criteria Document was in preparation and to dovetail with the research gaps that would need to be filled, IMnI was initiating a Manganese Health Research Program.
IMnI’s fourth and final goal with respect to OHES matters is to ensure that governments and regulators view the manganese industry as a positive, credible and ethically sound partner. The publication of the Criteria Document and the ongoing Manganese Health Research Program are two important steps in that direction.
To date, our efforts in the OHES fields have largely centered around occupational health issues. While continuing to be aggressively pro-active in that respect, the IMnI decided at the November 2004 Board meeting to enlarge its focus to increasingly address safety and environmental issues.